Sunday 26 March 2017

1966: Galway power surge seals historic treble

Galway 1-10
Meath 0-7

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

A game recalled for its historic dimension rather than the actual quality of the football, Galway became the first team for 25 years to win the three-in-a-row. Despite having beaten Kerry in the 1964 and '65 finals, Galway started as outsiders against Meath, due largely to the Royals' excellent form when beating Down by 10 points in the semi-final.

In contrast, Galway were sluggish when beating Cork by two points in the semi-final, having earlier squeezed past Mayo by a point in the Connacht final.

However, Galway were back to their best on All-Ireland final day. They blitzed Meath in the first half, with a goal by Mattie McDonagh helping them to an interval lead of 1-6 to 0-1. Meath's sole point didn't arrive until the 26th minute.

Galway extended their advantage on the restart before Meath launched a spirited revival which cut the lead to four points. They failed to sustain it, however, and points by McDonagh and Cyril Dunne gave Galway a comfortable victory.

Remarkably, it was the fifth time in three years that they had not conceded a goal at Croke Park, having also kept a clean sheet in the 1964 and '65 All-Ireland semi-finals and finals against Meath, Down and Kerry (twice). The only concession came against Cork in the 1966 semi-final.

The defensive solidity was built around such star names as Enda Colleran, Noel Tierney, Bosco McDermott, Sean Meade, Martin Newell and John Donnellan, although the latter was replaced by Coilin McDonagh for the 1966 final. Goalkeeper Johnny Geraghty was regarded as being well ahead of his time, using agility in a manner not previously seen. Indeed, he attracted the attention of Manchester United but wasn't tempted to leave Galway and Gaelic football for England and soccer.

Mattie McDonagh created a record in 1966 when he won his fourth All-Ireland medal (he won his first as a 19-year-old in 1956), becoming the first Connacht man to achieve so much. It's a record that still stands.

The Galway three-in-a-row team is regarded as one of the best of all time but, having put themselves in a position to write themselves deeper into history by adding a fourth title in 1967, it all came unstuck quite suddenly when they lost the Connacht semi-final to Mayo by 11 points. It would be another 32 years before the Tribesmen next won the All-Ireland.

Meath recovered in 1967 and won the All-Ireland title for the first time since 1954.

Galway -- J Geraghty; E Colleran (capt), N Tierney, JB McDermott; C McDonagh, S Meade, M Newell; J Duggan, P Donnellan; C Dunne, M McDonagh, S Leydon; L Sammon, S Cleary, J Keenan. Sub: J Donnellan for Meade.

Meath -- S McCormack; D Donnelly, J Quinn, P Darby; P Collier, B Cunningham, P Reynolds; P Moore, T Brown; T Brennan, M O'Sullivan, D Carty (capt); G Quinn, N Curran, O Shanley.

Subs: M White for Donnelly, J Fagan for Carty, M Quinn for Fagan.

Ref -- J Hatton (Wicklow).

Attendance: 71,569.

Irish Independent

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